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Books Everyone Should Read Wish List

By Antheras
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My favourite Canadian reads, a motley collection of fiction, non-fiction, humour, kid lit and anything else I can think of.
Pursuing Giraffe

Pursuing Giraffe

A 1950s Adventure
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Excerpt from Pursuing Giraffe: A 1950s Adventure by Anne Innis Dagg

Chapter 17 · Back at Fleur de Lys

Now that I'm back at Fleur de Lys, I immediately begin again to observe and record what giraffe are up to. My main focus, however, becomes completing the giraffe film, and adding more sequences to the 16 mm colour footage that Mr. Matthew and I have already taken to make it into a complete documentary of the animals' behaviour. We have visions of showing it publicly in a bid to conserve land for wildlife in Africa, or of selling it to Walt Disney to make money to help wildlife. I already have good sequences of Star walking, Cream galloping, an extended close-up of Cream trying to wrap his long black tongue around a high leaf while feeding, sparring between Star and Lumpy and several other males, giraffe drinking at a waterhole and at a cattle trough, and Star chewing and swallowing his cud. Mr. Matthew, during my absence, has filmed splendid slow-motion shots of single and herds of giraffe running, and a scene of giraffe silhouetted against the setting sun.

New giraffe calves have been born at Fleur de Lys since I've been away, so I'm thrilled to be able to film a mother suckling her young. In fact, I'm so excited that my hands shake as I try to change the reel to take even more footage and I manage to jam it in the camera; I have to wait until I'm back at the farmhouse at night to fix the problem in my blacked-out bedroom. On the way home, annoyed at my stupidity with the camera, I drive carelessly over a sand ridge on the track, onto which Camelo becomes stuck. I have to walk four miles to the Fleur de Lys office to ask Mr. Matthew if he will allow some workers to drive back to Camelo and lift her clear. He agrees, but I feel badly to be so inept.

It's important to show that the development of land for farming in the eastern Transvaal has not destroyed the lifestyle of the giraffe, so I spend a day trying to film in slow motion a giraffe stepping over a four-foot wire fence--a sequence that will later prove invaluable for a scientific paper I'll publish called “The role of the neck in the movements of the giraffe”--because they swing their necks far back when lifting their forelegs and well forward again to lift up their hind legs and finish a jump. With the film rushing through the camera at four times its normal speed, it's distressing to have my target animal suddenly pause reflectively beside the fence instead of crossing it, perhaps even mesmerized by the noise of the camera. I finally have my shot, but at the expense of reams of useless footage.

“When the farm was first fenced years ago,” Mr. Matthew tells me,”the giraffe routinely walked through the fences and broke them. The damage was so great that the board of Fleur de Lys talked about shooting all of them. But then they somehow learned to go over instead of through the fences, and most of the damage suddenly stopped. “

An African is still employed to do nothing but mend the endless miles of fencing on the farm, but lapses on the part of the giraffe are rare. One giraffe became so fence-conscious that he walked up to a wire gate that was open without noticing that there was no wire there. He lifted first one foreleg and then the other high into the air, edged forward, then pulled his hind legs up and over after them. He walked calmly on, ignoring the shout of laughter behind him.

In the middle of the day when the light is too harsh for photography, especially when its very hot, I edit the acceptable short clips into our definitive film using Mr. Matthews film editor and glue. On the evenings when processed films and slides are returned to us by mail, Mr. Matthew, George, and I screen the former to see if they're good enough for the master reel. For newly developed slides, we set up the slide projector to examine and admire them. Once, to my horror, I realize that I've taken a photo of a male baboon sitting on a rock with his pink penis exposed, the full monty. I rush on to the next slide, worried that one of the men will say something, but they don't. I learn later that this posture in monkeys and apes has a name, a penile display, meant to intimidate other males and maintain dominance. I often think of it today when I see sitting men holding court with their legs spread apart, a posture uncommon for women. .. .

On the evenings when Mr. Matthew is away, I work on the cattle report Mr. Matthew has asked me to prepare, organizing the extensive notes I've made on what plants I've seen them browse, and how they divide their time between browsing and grazing. I also catch up with the newspapers he has saved for me in a large heap. I'm keeping a scrapbook of political clippings, reading each new development in apartheid with amazement:

· Now theres a new law that fines anyone who allows white nurses to accept orders from non-European nurses C$200, as if this is likely to ever happen, given the racial structure of the country.

· The Minister of Native Affairs announces that any native can be refused entrance to a church in a European area, which is most of the country and where one-third of Africans live. What sort of Christianity is this? Dutch Reformed Church, apparently.

· The English-speaking whites are worried about the Prime Ministers refusal to attend a meeting of the Commonwealth Council of Prime Ministers, as well they might be, seeing that the country will soon vote to become a republic.

Mr. Matthew has told me to my relief that since it is now April, the beginning of cold weather, snakes will be hibernating. This turns out not to be true, which is hardly surprising when the temperature still reaches 100 degrees Fahrenheit at midday. One Sunday, when Mr. Matthew and I are on foot hunting for giraffe to film, a cobra flushed by a moving herd of cattle comes through the grass toward us, with its head in the air and its yellow hood spread. Frozen in place with horror, I stand watching it approach, unable to move or even call out. Luckily, Mr. Matthew sees it and rescues me by grabbing a thick stick and quickly killing it.

A few days later, when I'm driving slowly near the shopkeepers house in Klaserie, a four-foot cobra streaks across the main road right under Camelo, spreading its hood before diving into the bush. For once, safely ensconced in my car, I'm not afraid of the creature.

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Why it's on the list ...
From my review: Readers may be tempted, with 21st century viewpoints, to denigrate Dagg for her apparent naïveté in journeying to Africa with no knowledge of the political climate. However, it is precisely this unbiased naïveté that presents a compelling picture of the world Dagg entered. Assuredly, it is only a narrow window into a complex situation but an important one. With a scientist’s eye, Dagg chronicles every reaction, including her own biases, her idealized notions of Africans, and her utter bewilderment at the political mire she has encountered. This honest reporting allows readers to arrive at their own conclusions.

Pursuing Giraffe: a 1950s Adventure is as much a story about women’s roles in the world as it is about scientific research and personal growth.
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The Dodecahedron
Why it's on the list ...
From my review: Glennon introduces his readers to a profound journey of the mind and senses; one that will remain in their minds as clearly as if they had eaten the pages of this mesmerizing book, like the hero in the lead story “In My Father’s Library.” The quote by Francis Bacon, which prefaces "Library," could easily be applied to the entirety of A Frame for Frames: “Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested.”

No matter how the reader dips into The Dodecahedron or A Frame for Frames: a novel of sorts, this book will remain with them long after the final page is consumed.
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When the Rivers Run Dry

Journeys Into the Heart of the World's Water Crisis
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Why it's on the list ...
From my review: Pearce puts forward that “water flows uphill to money.” If we hope to weather a global climate certain to become more extreme with shifting patterns of precipitation, the world’s governments must stop focusing on the money and instead look at the best interests of the world’s rivers, wetlands and aquifers. Attention must be paid to deteriorating municipal water systems and investments made to fix the potable water leaking into the ground; in some cities, as much as 40% of a city's potable water disappears this way. New attention must be paid to traditional methods of living in harmony with the world’s rivers rather than attempting to tame the rivers through dams and man-made irrigation channels.
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Three Views Of Crystal Water
Why it's on the list ...
From my review:
This is a quiet, intimate novel with a shifting surface, as changeable as the pearl at the heart of the tale. The language is enthralling and Katherine Govier evokes a time and location that to many is shrouded with mystery.

Three Views of Crystal Water is a window into a story overlooked by many when studying World War II.
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War, Big Oil and the Fight for the Planet


The legendary doyenne of the White House press corps minced no words when she finally got her chance in March 2006 to put a question to the President: "Every reason given [for invading Iraq] has turned out not to be true . . . why did you really want to go to war?" asked Helen Thomas. "You have said it wasn’t oil . . . or anything else. What was it?"

George W. Bush sidestepped Thomas’ question about his true motive for war, insisting instead that he didn’t really want to go to war, that "no President wants war."

The little dust-up between the President and the feisty octogenarian attracted a brief flurry of media attention. But there was no accompanying media attention to Thomas' compelling question, which simply went unanswered, as it has for years.

Fresh evidence keeps coming to light – including revelations from top-secret British memos – about the intensity of the Bush administration’s determination to invade Iraq, whether or not Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. Yet we don’t insist on knowing "why?"

Any suggestion of a possible oil motive in the war is still routinely dismissed as the terrain of conspiracy theorists.

The fact that Iraq is the last easily-harvested oil bonanza left on earth – a vast, virtually untouched reservoir of the world’s most valuable resource – is largely ignored, as pundits focus instead on the administration’s professed concern about building democracy in Iraq.

The refusal to take seriously the possibility of an oil motive is bizarre, given oil’s obvious geopolitical significance and the intense focus on oil exhibited by U.S. administrations, particularly the current one. George W. Bush himself highlighted the problem of America’s dependence on foreign oil in his 2006 State of the Union address.

And in a surprisingly frank comment in October 2005, Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, former chief of staff to Colin Powell, told a policy forum of the New America Foundation: "We had a discussion in policy planning about actually mounting an operation to take the oilfields in the Middle East, internationalize them, put them under some sort of UN trusteeship and administer the revenues and the oil accordingly. That's how serious we thought about it."

Even this intriguing comment, from a high-level administration insider, failed to provoke media questioning about a possible oil motive.

The centrality of oil to the modern world is well known. Oil is integrally related to virtually every aspect of our way of life from transportation, communication and the mass production of goods, to food, heat, light and military power. Access to oil is therefore essential to modern living, as well as being crucial to maintaining military dominance – as was amply demonstrated in both World Wars. If we separate the reality of oil’s importance from the politically sensitive issue of Iraq, we can easily appreciate why getting control of oil reserves has for decades been an important goal of powerful nations. This is particularly true of the United States, which is keen to protect its position as the dominant global power with the world’s most advanced standard of living.

The problem the U.S. faces is that while its appetite for oil is virtually unlimited, its reserves are quite limited. It consumes roughly 25 percent of all the oil produced in the world each year, but has only 3 percent of the world’s crude reserves. To make up for the shortfall, the U.S. relies heavily on oil from outside its borders, leaving it vulnerable if key reserves are under the control of hostile nations. Overcoming this vulnerability has been a central goal of U.S. policymakers, particularly since Arab nations dramatically cut back their oil exports for a brief period in the early 1970s.
With roughly two thirds of the world’s oil located in the Middle East, a major thrust of U.S. policy has long been gaining control over the region and its reserves.

Thus, for the past sixty years, Washington has provided crucial backing for the dictatorship in Saudi Arabia, protecting the royal family against threats from inside and outside the country. In exchange, Washington (along with U.S. oil companies) has enjoyed extraordinary leverage over Saudi oil policy, which effectively amounts to leverage over world oil policy.

Washington’s intervention in Iran has been even more direct. After a popular nationalist leader was elected there in the early 1950s, Tehran nationalized its foreign-owned oil industry. The big British and American oil companies were so incensed that they organized a worldwide boycott of nationalized Iranian oil. When the boycott failed to bring Tehran to its knees, Washington orchestrated a coup in 1953 that toppled the fledgling Iranian democracy and replaced it with a brutal, pro-U.S. dictatorship led by the Shah.

This background is routinely omitted from mainstream public debate, making it harder for the public to see the current U.S. intervention in Iraq as part of a larger historical pattern of the U.S. quest to control Middle Eastern oil. (Also left out of public debate is the role that U.S. interventions have inadvertently played in sparking the rise of a deeply anti-American Islamic fundamentalist movement in that part of the world.)

The possibility of an oil motive in the Iraq war is often dismissed on the grounds that it would be cheaper to simply buy the oil. Why bother invading, when you can get all the oil you want by just writing a cheque?

But the cheque-book solution was also available – and rejected by Washington – when Iran nationalized its oil a half-century ago. Tehran had every intention of continuing to sell oil to the U.S., and indeed was offering it at a very low price. Americans could have simply bought the nationalized oil.

But Washington wasn’t interested in a cheque-book solution. The issue for Washington wasn’t access to oil, it was control of oil. Without control, there is no guarantee of access. This point was driven home dramatically in 1973, when the Arab countries slashed their oil exports to punish Washington for purely political reasons. Thus, no cheque-book solution was even available. That Arab oil embargo left an indelible impression on U.S. strategic planners, who have since focused on ensuring America is never vulnerable like that again.

So spending $270 billion invading and occupying Iraq wasn’t a calculated plan to get oil at a good price. Rather it seems to have been, at least in part, a calculated plan to secure Washington’s crucial control over oil.

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Why it's on the list ...
From my review of the 2006 edition: Linda McQuaig, a journalist well-known for taking pokes at the big myths, now focuses on the largest. In It’s the Crude, Dude: War, Big Oil, and the Fight for the Planet, McQuaig aims squarely at the debate no one is having - Why was information on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction falsified and why did the United States want to invade Iraq?

McQuaig doesn’t put forward anything Canadians don’t already know or suspect. It’s the Crude, Dude provides a starting point for the discussions that must happen, framing the research and statistics in a clear, concise manner understandable by the average concerned citizen.
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Why it's on the list ...
From my review: Cavanagh has shaped engaging, realistic characters and, despite some irritation with Irving and Helen, After Helen is a promising debut. The little details show his developing ease with his craft, and vindicate Cavanagh’s win of the inaugural “Lit Idol”.

In 2004 the London International Book Fair held its inaugural “Lit Idol” contest modeled on the popular “Pop Idol” television show. Submitted as a 10,000-word manuscript, with accompanying two-page story outline, Paul Cavanagh’s After Helen was selected as winner out of a field of 1,500 competitors. Cavanagh’s completed novel (substantially more than 10,000-words) was picked up by HarperCollins Canada and released with a relative lack of fanfare when compared to the publicity surrounding his “Lit Idol” win.
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